Sunday October 20, 2019
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Why media bailouts are bad and wrong

delaney

“There’s no place for the state in the newsrooms of the nation.”

To borrow a phrase from none other than the current Prime Minister’s father, Pierre Trudeau, which itself was borrowed from a 1967 Globe and Mail editorial – there’s no place for the state in the newsrooms of the nation.

I say this, not only as someone who is diametrically opposed to the Liberals politically but also, as someone who spent more than 20 years working in news media.

While it has been more than 5 years since my last media job, I continue to have a special affinity for the industry and all of the incredibly talented and hardworking people who have dedicated themselves to this often-times unforgiving but oddly rewarding career.

Whenever I see news of media outlets closing or shrinking, most recently the Hamilton Spectator, my heart sinks.

I’m reminded of why I decided to follow a different career path back in 2014. I could see the writing on the wall and knew, that as a woman who wasn’t getting any younger, my chances of continuing to support myself in media were getting slimmer and slimmer.

The truth of the matter is, the “industry” as we know it, has been in trouble for quite some time, for various reasons.

So, what to do?

Well, I can tell you what NOT to do and that is to throw taxpayer money at it.

Firstly, it does nothing to address the inherent problems but more importantly, a healthy democracy relies on an independent media, free of political interference.

We can’t have the government of the day deciding who the winners and losers are when it comes to media in this country.

This government has already shown that when it does so, it is cynical, at best.  Case in point, Blacklocks.

Blacklock’s is a non-partisan, reporter owned and operated publication run by veteran journalists, contracting freelance writers, which has stated unequivocally that they will not be applying for any funds under this bailout plan.

The company has been locked in costly litigation with thirteen federal agencies and departments for sharing thousands of copies of its password-protected content without payment or permission.

Litigation has cost Blacklock’s and taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The website has reduced the number of journalists it hires in order to finance the litigation.

By the way, Blacklocks is notorious for their investigative work that often leads to less than flattering revelations about the government.  I’m sure that has nothing to do with why this government would be treating them differently than other subscription based outlets, right?

Does that sound like a government interested in fostering fairness and a level playing field amongst the media?

That’s the problem with this bailout. Impact negates intent. Media must be seen to be independent.  And when you’re taking government handouts, good luck convincing Canadians you’re not in some way beholden to the person who gave you that money.

For that reason alone, the perception of interference, this bailout package was destined to be a flop. Now, things have gone from bad to worse after the Trudeau government announced a panel of eight Canadian organizations tasked with developing criteria for who will receive the money.

On that panel is Unifor.

The same Unifor that calls itself “The Resistance” to Andrew Scheer. The same Unifor that has already actively campaigned against Mr. Scheer. The same Unifor whose President, Jerry Dias, appears to have a very cosy relationship with this Liberal government, appearing as Chrystia Freeland’s right hand during the NAFTA renegotiations.

So, at a time when there is already more than a healthy does of skepticism about the independence of news organizations who will take this money from the Trudeau government, did they really think that involving the likes of Unifor was going to do anything to assuage that skepticism?

Keep in mind, all of this is happening at the same time the Trudeau government is also introducing a digital charter, saying it will address issues including disinformation and online election interference.

Do these people hear themselves?

Justin Trudeau, who said the Jody-Wilson Raybould story in the Globe and Mail was false, is going to police disinformation?

A lot of Canadians already have lost faith in the information they receive, whether it be from traditional media or the online variety. And none of what the Trudeau government is doing does anything to restore that confidence. On the contrary.

Justin Trudeau is compromising the integrity of both the media in this country and of our electoral process with this cynical election year bailout.  And it should scare the bejeebus out of you.

Remember, Justin Trudeau once said that he most admires the basic dictatorship of China.  And while it may seem like a lot of hyperbole to compare Canada to China, we ignore what’s happening right now at our own peril.

With less than 6 months to go until the federal election, make no mistake, the Prime Minister is stacking the electoral deck to his benefit.

He has set limits on what opposition parties can spend prior to the start of the election. He has unilaterally imposed new rules around the televised leaders’ debate. He has done nothing to stop foreign interference in our elections. And now he’s about to reward his preferred media outlets while censoring the internet.

Thankfully, the media in this country is still independent and many amongst them have been speaking out against this bailout package.  Unfortunately, they’re not the owners. So it remains to be seen which outlets do the right thing and walk away from this dumpster fire. In the long run, it could be costlier for them to take the money than to leave it on the bedside table.

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  • Why media bailouts are bad and wrong

    By Jacqui Delaney Time To Read: 4 min